BRUSSELS: EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc remains steadfast in its support for Ukraine, announcing a proposed spending package of up to $5.25 billion for Kyiv in 2024.

Borrell made the comments during a press briefing alongside Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv where EU foreign ministers convened their first ever off-site meeting in a display of support for Ukraine.

Though Monday’s meeting in Kyiv was touted by Borrell as a historic first, it comes at an awkward time for the pro-Ukraine Western alliance.

A pro-Russian candidate won an election in Slovakia, an EU and NATO member, and the U.S. Congress omitted funding for Ukraine from its temporary spending bill.

The Ukrainian military counter-offensive has been slower than Western leaders had hoped before autumn mud clogs the treads of their donated tanks.

“Our victory explicitly depends on our cooperation — the more powerful and principled steps we take together, the sooner this war will end,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the EU Foreign ministers during the meeting.

Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine continues to protect its people and its economy from continuous Russian attacks, that its counteroffensive aimed at liberating its occupied territories is progressing steadily and reminded the EU leadership that Ukraine needs more money, more weapons and more military training to achieve its goals. He also asked them to intensify sanctions against Russia.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for efforts to prepare Ukraine for the coming winter, including through air defense and guaranteed energy supplies, after Russia bombed Ukraine’s energy infrastructure last year.

“Last winter, we saw the brutal way in which the Russian president is waging this war,” said Baerbock. “We must prevent this together with everything we have, as far as possible.”

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said holding the meeting in Ukraine’s capital was a show of “resolute and lasting support for Ukraine.”

“It is also a message to Russia that it should not count on our weariness. We will be there for a long time to come,” Colonna told reporters.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot said Russia must be held accountable for its aggression in Ukraine and that it is important to pressure Russia with sanctions.

“We have to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, for the freedom of the people of Ukraine,” she said. (VOA)

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